Parent Question: My four-year-old is exceptionally bright. Should I have my child tested? If so, when? Do you recommend a particular test?
Expert Answer: By all means, have your child assessed. Giftedness can be inferred in the first three years from a child’s rapid progression through the developmental milestones. Early identification is as important with giftedness as it is with any other exceptionality. You wouldn’t think twice about having your child tested if, for instance, his or her motor coordination or speech were developing more slowly than that of other children. Early intervention promotes optimal development.
If your child fits three-fourths of the characteristics listed below, testing is highly recommended. The best time to test is between four and nine years of age. Children under four may not cooperate well enough to show their full potential, and children over nine often hit the ceiling of achievement and aptitude tests, resulting in scores that underestimate their intelligence.
Parents are excellent at identifying giftedness in their children: 84 percent of the children whose parents say that they fit three-fourths of these characteristics score at least in the top 5 to 10 percent on IQ tests (the superior range). More than 95 percent show giftedness in at least one area but demonstrate asynchronous or uneven development, so their IQ scores often appear to underestimate their potential.
Characteristics of Giftedness
How many of these descriptors fit your child, compared to other children of the same age?
- Reasons well
- Learns rapidly
- Has an extensive vocabulary
- Has an excellent memory
- Has a long attention span (if interested)
- Is emotionally sensitive
- Shows compassion
- Is a perfectionist
- Is intense
- Is morally sensitive
- Is very curious
- Perseveres with interests
- Has a high degree of energy
- Prefers older or adult companions
- Has a wide range of interests
- Has a great sense of humor
- Is an early or avid reader (if too young to read, loves being read to)
- Is concerned with justice and fairness
- Is a keen observer
- Has a vivid imagination
- Is highly creative
- Questions authority
- Has facility with numbers
- Excels at jigsaw puzzles
Determining which IQ test to use can be difficult. For children under the age of six, there is no particularly reliable scale for assessing giftedness. Hopefully, when the fifth edition of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale is released in 2003, it will offer one. Until then, it is permissible to use the Stanford-Binet (Form L-M) for children who seem exceptionally gifted. Other IQ tests can be used, but if the child scores in the 99th percentile on two or more subtests, it is wise to use the Stanford-Binet (Form L-M) as a supplemental test, because its higher ceiling permits above-level testing. For children 6 to 16, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, third edition (WISC-III), is the most popular test and the one that school psychologists usually select.
It is important to find an examiner who delights in the gifted mind and who will take the time to establish the rapport needed to ensure optimal performance from your child. Gifted children are often reflective and perfectionist, and they may be shy at first with someone they don’t know. An examiner who has experience working with the gifted will be eager to see how much your child knows and will make the experience fun for him or her.
—Linda Kreger Silverman, PhD
Linda Kreger Silverman is director of the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado, and author ofCounseling the Gifted and Talented (Love Publishing, 1993).
- Gifted Development Center